On Domesticity

I was raised in a house where everybody had lists of chores to be done. It was kind of a drag to have to do your chores before going out to play, but the whole house got cleaned every week. I don’t think my share ever took more than a couple of hours – maybe three in the years I had to mow the yard with an old-fashioned push mower. Now I have a house roughly the same size as the one I shared with four other people, and there’s only one other person to help clean it. Plus one person who doesn’t much see a need for cleaning, or any other activity that keeps his mommy from playing with him. In lieu of actually cleaning, I’ve been reading a series of books on on cleaning.

Is There Life after Housework? by Don Aslett This book, a 10th anniversary edition with a 1992 copyright date, seemed a little old. But the tattered covers and layers of checkout stickers show that it’s still a popular work, and quite deservedly. Aslett, a professional cleaner and father of six, tells how to set up your house so it is easier to clean and then how to clean as efficiently as possible. For example, he recommends at least eight steps worth of professional quality doormatting inside and out to trap dirt before you have to sweep it off your floor. It’s short, to the point, and quite funny. There are some newer cleaning materials on the market since this book was finished – microfiber, for example – but all in all, if you’re feeling swamped with housework and want some help speeding it up, this is still a great book to go with.

Speed Cleaning 101: Cut Your Cleaning Time in Half by Laura Dellutri This book has a 2005 copyright date but, alas, not much new in the way of advice, and quite a few contradictions. Some good tips on how to organize cleaning, like starting at one door to a room and cleaning in a circle, top to bottom, for maximum efficiency, and some hints on splitting up work for team cleaning. But, for example, she’s talking about bathrooms and says that since toilets can spew invisible germs, you should train everyone in your family to shut the lid when flushing. Next, she talks about cleaning the bathroom counter and says that you should only clean the parts that look dirty. So we no longer care about the invisible germs that the toilet spewed everywhere? And “Keep your cleaning kit simple” followed by “Browse the cleaning aisle at your grocery store for spiffy new products.” Also I didn’t like her thoughts on the current overuse of antibacterial cleaners in the home, which basically amounted to, “Well, it’s important to keep things clean.” She has some nice thoughts about deciding how clean you personally want to keep things, but there are better books out there.

Home Comforts: the Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson At well over 800 pages, this book answers every question you might have about making your residence a home, but is not for the faint of heart. It’s kind of like the Joy of Cooking for housekeeping, and it is housekeeping, not just cleaning. Like Joy, it’s not meant to be read straight through, as I did. Gentle readers, for you I undertook this task, which took me seven weeks. Also, I kept meaning to skip things, and kept finding it too interesting. Everyone I told I was reading this book thought I was nuts. Everyone I got to read the introduction wanted to read the whole book, too. The introduction talks about how the author, an attorney, used not to keep her place up, as it was so very unfashionable to have time and energy for so lowly a task. Then she realized how much homier it made things and so cleaned in secret to avoid the social stigma. Well, publishing the book blew her cover. Here are just a few of the topics covered: setting up a cleaning routine; organizing a pantry; planning menus; how to fold laundry; the chemistry of household cleaners; a really nice discussion on when antibacterials are and aren’t appropriate; preserving your valuables; buying insurance; working with domestic help. Manuals like this were common a century ago. You (and I) would probably be better off owning one, too.

About Katy K.

I'm a librarian and book worm who believes that children and adults deserve great books to read.
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3 Responses to On Domesticity

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